One of the most over-prescribed and profitable medications (for Big Pharma) are acid suppressing drugs used to treat heartburn and gastro esophageal reflux disease (GERD). These strong medications should be used as a short-term therapy (a few weeks) rather than for years as people often do. Long term use of these medications make them difficult to stop, lead to increased susceptibility to infections such as clostridium difficile and pneumonia, and increase the risk arrhythmias and bone fractures due to decreased mineral absorption. Fortunately, there are other safer, healthier and natural solutions to relieve heartburn and GERD.
Our Stomach Produces Acid For A Reason
Why is the overuse of these drugs so disturbing? These pills essentially turn off your digestion. The stomach is meant to be an acidic environment that protects you from bacteria, parasites and other yuckiness that sneak in with your food. This acid environment also signals the pancreas to secret digestive enzymes to break down food in the small intestine. Without this perfect system, digestion becomes compromised and vitamin and mineral deficiencies ensue. Or worse yet, parasites and bacteria can easily enter your body without the normal protection.
Natural Solutions For Heartburn & GERD
So what is a person with heartburn to do? Keep reading to discover natural and safer solutions for this uncomfortable condition.
- When a client of mine complains of heartburn or GERD, the first thing I look for is food allergies or sensitivities. Sometimes a test is warranted, but often taking out common food triggers for a month will identity the source of the problem. I usually recommend a 100% gluten free/dairy free trial to start. Other foods that may need elimination include peanuts, eggs, soy, citrus, coffee, alcohol and corn.
- This may seem counter intuitive but heartburn is often a sign of LOW stomach acid. That burning sensation is really fermenting undigested food products and/or a poor functioning gastro esophageal sphincter that is not closing properly. Yes, there are some people who have hyperacidity or ulcers, but the majority of people suffer from low stomach acid, especially as we age.
One simple test to know if you lack stomach acid is to drink 1-3 teaspoons of organic apple cider vinegar mixed with a couple of ounces of water during your meals. If you feel better and experience less burning, that is your clue that you need more stomach acid. The next step is to do a trial of Betaine Hydrochloride enzymes to further support stomach acid production and digestion. Start with one pill per meal and increase the dose gradually until you feel a slight burn or discomfort. Once that occurs, go back to the last dose where you had no discomfort and use that as your dose per meal.
- Finally, some people benefit from more comprehensive digestive enzyme support, which includes Betaine Hydrochloride for the stomach as well as pancreatic enzymes to support digestion of fats, carbohydrates and proteins. One of my favorites can be found here. Look for less heartburn, bloating, gas and indigestion when supplementing with this product.
- Keep in mind that if you are coming off an acid blocker, it is common to have a rebound effect if you stop it suddenly. Talk to your medical doctor about tapering off gradually over a couple of weeks. You can also support your digestion while reducing your dosage by using the methods listed above and supplementing with natural herbs that soothe and heal the GI tract. These include marshmallow root (not the stuff you make s’mores with, sorry), slippery elm or okra. My favorite natural antacid is deglycerized licorice, which will help calm the fire if you suffer from rebound acidity. You can find these items individually in your natural health food stores. For a comprehensive all-in-one product that also repairs the intestinal lining look here.
- Use some common sense when eating. For example don’t drink large amounts of fluids while eating as this dilutes the acid environment of the stomach. Don’t go to bed right after finishing a meal and don’t overeat in general.
- Finally, one of the most common reasons for heartburn is excessive body weight. Rather than pacifying the symptom, go to the source of the problem and drop a few pounds. One way to do that is to ensure you have optimal digestion to begin with. I can guarantee, if you are taking an acid reducing medication, you have just shut off your digestive capabilities and will be sliding down a slippery slope.